FARA Discuss Bio-Fortification in National and Regional Agriculture to Commemorate the 7th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security.

The 7th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS 2016) was hosted by the government of Ghana. At this event, FARA organized a side event on the theme: “Embracing Bio-fortification in National and Regional Agriculture and Nutrition Policies and Strategies”.

The Capacity Development lead specialist Dr. Nelson Ojijo who spearheaded FARA’s workshop in this event said one of its outcomes is to discuss how best to mainstream bio-fortification in regional agricultural and nutrition policies, strategies and investment plans. A major output expected was on how national and regional actors plan to embrace bio-fortified crops in their respective policy documents.

adnsDuring the opening remarks, the Executive Director of FARA, Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo pointed out that bio-fortification is an emerging technique that has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective, sustainable, culturally acceptable and feasible approaches that have the potential to reach wide and varied populations particularly rural populations that are most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies.

He stated that since the inauguration of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) in 2003, the importance of agriculture for spurring economic growth, achieving food and nutrition security and ensuring poverty alleviation in Africa has received wide acclamation in high-level policy circles.

The Malabo declaration of 2014 commits African governments to “improve nutritional status, and in particular, eliminate child under-nutrition in Africa with a view to bringing down stunting to 10% and underweight to 5% by 2025. Achieving these goals would require sustained growth in nutrition-sensitive agricultural productivity. Nutrition-sensitive agriculture is largely based on the principles of “growing what we need nutritionally and eating what we grow” he said.

Dr. Akinbamijo outlined the primary causes of most micronutrient malnutrition (which affects millions of people in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) especially the rural poor and other vulnerable populations) as inadequate intakes of micronutrient-rich foods and impaired absorption or utilization of nutrients in these foods, due partly to infection and parasitic infestation, which also increases metabolic needs for many micronutrients.

Combating micronutrient deficiency requires an integrated approach consisting of food-based and non-food-based strategies. Food-based strategies are most sustainable and largely dependent on the concept of nutrition-sensitive agriculture. He opined that Nutrition-sensitive agriculture has emerged recently as a way to define agriculture investments made with the purpose of improving nutrition.

In addition, Nutrition-sensitive agriculture seeks to maximize agriculture’s contribution to nutrition and it stresses the multiple benefits derived from enjoying a variety of foods (dietary diversity), and recognizes the value of food for good nutrition, health and productivity. He further observed that Nutrition-sensitive agriculture also entails targeting poor households, promoting gender equity, and providing nutrition education so that household resources are used to improve household members’ nutrition, especially that of women and young children.

The Role of FARA in Ensuring Food and Nutrition Security through Bio-fortification.

In discussing the role of FARA, Dr. Akinbamijo explained that FARA’s Strategic Plan (2014 – 2018) recognizes nutrition as a key cross-cutting issue and recommends measures to provide guidance to policy makers on the selection and design of effective agricultural interventions that strengthen food and nutrition security of vulnerable populations in Africa.

Secondly, he noted that the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) elaborated by FARA and stakeholders in response to NEPAD’s “Sustaining the CAADP Momentum” drive provides for improvement of nutritious foods and enrichment of micronutrient levels in crops through breeding and soil health management.

Thus, FARA considers bio-fortification, which entails increasing the density of micronutrients in a crop through plant breeding or agronomic practices, as an important technique that must be promoted for increased food and nutrition security in Africa.

Further, Dr. Akinbamijo said FARA is co-implementing the Building Nutritious Food Basket (BNFB) Project with CIP, CIAT, CIMMYT, IITA and HarvestPlus. FARA’s role in the BNFB project is to coordinate policy engagement and regional advocacy efforts.  One of the key targets of the regional advocacy on bio-fortification is influencing inclusion of bio-fortified crops as prioritized value chains in the post-Malabo CAADP national and regional investment plans.

He explained that the ADFNS offers an opportunity for FARA to raise awareness about the BNFB project; engage policy makers and other stakeholders; and to discuss options for mainstreaming bio-fortification in regional and national agricultural and nutrition policies, strategies and investment plans.

Dr. Akinbamijo appreciated the efforts of research partners and stated that FARA has been actively engaged in the AfdB led Technology for Africa Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) and Africa Agricultural Research Programme (AARP) which will be implemented from 2017. Both programmes will give due prominence to nutrition and particularly nutrition-sensitive agriculture. “This will help us to collectively chart the future we want for Africa’s food and nutrition security status”, he concluded.

Participants included key experts in agriculture, nutrition and policy development and implementation as well as nutrition-sensitive agriculture advocates from the AUC, NEPAD, CIP, FAO, CIMMYT, WFP, WHO, AGRA, UN, Governments, Civil Society Organizations and the Private Sector.

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